The Toyota HiLux SR5 4x4 Dual Cab.
The Toyota HiLux SR5 4x4 Dual Cab.

Utes topple small hatchbacks and sedans in sales race

AUSTRALIANS bought more new utes last month than small cars - and it wasn't even the biggest month of the year for commercial vehicle sales.

Ute sales usually go through the roof in the lead up to the end of the financial year in June.

But August saw pick-ups topple small hatchbacks and sedans.

According to the Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries - which collates sales data based on manufacturer claims rather than actual registrations - 17,310 utes were reported as sold last month versus 16,311 small cars.

Hatchbacks still lead utes in the year-to-date tally - 145,600 versus 136,300 - but the margin is getting narrower.

Meanwhile sales of SUVs - the American term we've adopted for recreational wagons such as "soft-roaders” or "faux-wheel-drives” - continue to outpace passenger cars: 38,000 versus 35,700 in August.

That means 2017 will go down in history as the first time SUVs have overtaken passenger cars in Australia in a calendar year - another milestone after a ute topped the charts in 2016.

The reigning champion, the Toyota HiLux, looks set to make record back-to-back sales victories after notching up its sixth monthly win in a row in August.

The Toyota HiLux and Ford Ranger utes continue to top the charts, ahead of a long list of small cars and SUVs.

The Ford Ranger XLT.
The Ford Ranger XLT.

The Ford Ranger had closed the gap to the Toyota HiLux earlier in the year - utes also outsold small cars in March 2017 - but the Japanese giant had a spike in sales after sharp discounts in recent months.

However, once the HiLux reaches an unassailable lead over the Ranger - something it is on track to do in the next month or so - there is a chance the discounts will evaporate, as Toyota will no longer need to push as hard to retain the HiLux's top-seller status.

If the HiLux becomes Australia's top selling vehicle in 2017 it will be the first time in our automotive history a ute has topped the charts two years in a row.

Although last month was a record for August, five of the Top 10 brands posted sales slides compared with the same month last year. Luxury brands Audi (down 28.3 per cent) and BMW (down 13.6 per cent) also struggled.

However, if the figures are any indicator of true demand, Australia is on track to post another year of record new-car deliveries.

Figures from the car industry lobby group show 96,662 vehicles were reported as sold in August, up 1.8 per cent on the same month last year.

The year-to-date tally, however, paints are more realistic picture with 788,968 cars reported as sold - an increase of just 0.6 per cent compared with the first eight months of 2016.

The Toyota HiLux SR5.
The Toyota HiLux SR5. Iain Curry

Top 10 sellers in August 2017

Toyota HiLux 4287

Ford Ranger 3588

Toyota Corolla 2948

Hyundai Tucson 2206

Mazda3 2163

Hyundai i30 2143

Toyota Camry 2107

Holden Commodore 2071

Mazda CX-5 2048

Mitsubishi Triton 1970

Top 10 car brands in August 2017

Toyota 18,511 down 0.7 per cent

Mazda 8511 down 8.1 per cent

Hyundai 7800 up 19.3 per cent

Holden 6984 down 8.9 per cent

Mitsubishi 6649 up 8.4 per cent

Ford 6645 down 3 per cent

Volkswagen 4730 up 21.5 per cent

Subaru 4579 up 36.2 per cent

Kia 4507 up 21.5 per cent

Nissan 4095 down 27.1 per cent

Source: Federal Chamber of Automotive Industries

This reporter is on Twitter: @JoshuaDowling

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